For aches and pains

New Zealand Fitness - - NEW ZEALAND FITNESS -

Do you suf­fer from nig­gling knees, lower back pain, in­di­ges­tion, toothache or headaches? Wai­heke Is­land med­i­cal herbal­ist and naturopath HE­LEN ELSCOT gives tips to help over­come the aches and pains which can stop you from your daily work out.

Pain is some­thing most of us will face at some point in our lives and although pain re­lief med­i­ca­tions are wide­spread and a cheap, ef­fec tive an­ti­dote, they can have their own set of side-ef­fects.

Herbal medicine is ex-pe­ri­enc­ing a re­vival at gen­eral and sci­en­tific level. This re­dis­cov­ery of prac­ti­cal knowl­edge and wis­dom lends it­self to a more eco­log­i­cally sta­ble and “nat­u­ral” way of life and can help keep you on the path to good health.


The white willow tree has been used to com­bat pain and fever for thou­sands of years. The bark of the tree con­tains salicin, which the body con­verts to sal­i­cylic acid. The ac­tive com­pound in as­pirin, acetyl­sal­i­cylic acid, is de­rived from sal­i­cylic acid.

Herbal­ists use white willow in much the same way as as­pirin, to re­duce pain and in­flam­ma­tion in con­di­tions such as arthri­tis, pe­riod pain and fever. White willow works a lit­tle slower than as­pirin in re­liev­ing pain, but lasts longer and is gen­tler on the stom­ach.


Nearly one in three New Zealan­ders suf fer from chronic pain caused by con­di­tions such as fi­bromyal­gia and chronic fa­tigue syn­drome.

Spe­cial­ists who treat this type of pain are be­gin­ning to note sig­nif­i­cant re­sults when us­ing the min­eral mag­ne­sium.

Mag­ne­sium is re­quired in the body for the pro­duc­tion of mus­cle tis­sue and an in­creased level of mus­cle tis­sue break­down is be­lieved to be one of the main rea­sons for the aching, pain and fa­tigue.

For chronic pain re­lief, it is best to use a high po­tency pow­dered form of mag­ne­sium, which tar­gets mus­cle tis­sue break­down ef­fec­tively.


The most com­mon way Ki­wis are struck down by pain is through headaches and migraines. Whether brought on by stress, de­hy­dra­tion, hor­mones or mus­cle ten­sion, they are de­bil­i­tat­ing and can strike just when you’re try­ing to ex­er­cise.

Of course, the best way to treat headaches can be found on a phar­ma­cist’s shelf – al­ter­na­tively you can re­lax, re-hy­drate or try a sooth­ing cup of lemon balm or chamomile herbal tea. They both have a seda­tive ef­fect, which helps the ner­vous sys­tem cope with the stress, which leads to headaches.

For the 30 per cent of suf­fer­ers who do not re­spond pos­i­tively to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal med­i­ca­tion and those who deal with the knock-down pain of a mi­graine, the leaves of the Fev­er­few plant can be a sav­ing grace.

Fev­er­few is a mem­ber of the sun­flower fam­ily and bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to chamomile. It con­tains an ac­tive com­pound that helps re­lieve smooth mus­cle spasms and, in par­tic­u­lar, helps pre­vent the con­stric­tion of blood ves­sels in the brain, which is one of the lead­ing causes of mi­graine headaches. Con­trolled tri­als have shown that just two or three fresh Fev­er­few leaves chewed daily can re­duce the in­ci­dence of at­tacks in peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence long-term mi­graine headaches.


Build­ing strong bones and healthy car­ti­lage is a lifelong event. While you’re young, fit and healthy you may not think much about your bones or joints, but you can’t make a move with­out them and you’ll count on them, as you get older.

Your bones and car­ti­lage gives your body a frame­work, main­tain­ing its shape and help­ing pro­tect vi­tal or­gans – tak­ing good care of your in­ner scaf­fold­ing will help pre­vent you suf­fer­ing from back and neck pain in the short-term and can help pre­vent chronic dis­eases such as os­teoarthri­tis.

To soothe the aches and pains, the herb aptly named devil’s claw (or known by its Latin name Harpago­phy­tum procum­bens), is a plant na­tive to south­ern Africa and its name is de­rived from its small hooks and how tricky it can be to get out of, once caught.

Tra­di­tion­ally used as a bit­ter tea to im­prove di­ges­tion, it is now of­ten used for con­di­tions that cause in­flam­ma­tion and pain such as back and neck pain, os­teoarthri­tis, rheuma­toid arthri­tis and carpal tun­nel syn­drome.


There is noth­ing worse than the con­stant nag of an aching tooth. Your best friend to help soothe the pain, be­fore you get to your den­tist, is kawakawa.

You need only to veer slightly off a road, mo­tor­way, lane or track to find kawakawa. Its heart-shaped leaves are usu­ally found tucked away under the canopy of other trees where it prefers a shady po­si­tion.

Kawakawa’s aro­matic leaves, also known as Mao­ria bush basil, were tra­di­tion­ally chewed to re­lieve toothache and di­ges­tive dis­tur­bances.

Looper moth cater­pil­lars of­ten per­fo­rate the leaves, but this dam­age ac­tu­ally in­creases the con­cen­tra­tion of ac­tive medic­i­nal in­gre­di­ents and makes these leaves the best to chew for pain re­lief

Kawakawa can also be taken as an in­fu­sion by treat­ing a leaf like a tea bag and steep­ing it for a few min­utes in boil­ing wa­ter. The re­sult­ing liq­uid is anal­gesic, with a slightly tin­gling taste sen­sa­tion.


The burn­ing, gnaw­ing pain that come with acid re­flux means that eat­ing can turn from a plea­sure to a pain.

The word “re­flux” comes from the Latin word re­fluere, mean­ing to flow back or re­cede. This means acids from the stom­ach flows back into the esoph­a­gus, the tube that con­nects the stom­ach and throat.

In­di­ges­tion oc­curs for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Obe­sity or changes in body mass in­dex, in­creased cal­cium in­take – which in­creases acid­ity – med­i­cal con­di­tions and some med­i­ca­tion, can all trigger in­di­ges­tion.

Mead­owsweet is a herb some­times known as the “meat eater’s rem­edy,” help­ing re­lieve acid­ity and poor di­ges­tion.

The ther­a­peu­tic value of mead­owsweet is much like over-the-counter antacids, but with­out ad­verse side ef­fects such as low iron lev­els and a low­ered im­mune sys­tem.

Mead­owsweet con­tains tan­nins, brown­ish com­pounds found in plants which his­tor­i­cally have been used to tan and dye leather. Tan­nins func­tion like as­trin­gents and draw tis­sues to­gether in the di­ges­tive tract. This makes mead­owsweet per­fect for heal­ing the di­ges­tive tract and treat­ing in­di­ges­tion.


Many peo­ple seek treat­ment for vari­cose veins due to their ap­pear­ance, but they are of­ten painful, es­pe­cially when stand­ing or walk­ing, and can itch – try to avoid scratch­ing them as it may cause ul­cers.

The herb Butcher’s Broom de­rives its pe­cu­liar name from me­dieval times when the leaves were used to pre­serve butcher’s meat from be­ing eaten by mice and the stalks were tied to­gether to make brooms.

Today, it is used to im­prove cir­cu­la­tion and to re­duce the dis­com­fort of fluid re­ten­tion. The flavonoids in Butcher's Broom help tighten vari­cose veins and strengthen the cap­il­lary walls and are par­tic­u­larly suit­able for peo­ple who are on their feet all day.

He­len Elscot . . . “Herbal medicine is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­vival at a gen­eral and sci­en­tific level.”

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